Three Greencastle teachers among 100 educators earning Lilly fellowships

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

INDIANAPOLIS -- They spend the school year inspiring young minds to learn, create and discover but this summer 100 of Indiana's most gifted K-12 educators will take time for their own exploration and growth through Lilly Endowment Teacher Creativity Fellowships.

Three of those select faculty members represent Greencastle Community Schools -- art teacher Robin A. Johnson and Spanish teacher Meredith L Wade from Greencastle High School along with Greencastle Middle School science teacher Stacie R. Stoffregen.

Johnson and Stoffregen are two-time recipients of a Lilly Fellowship.

Each educator will receive a $10,000 grant that will support a summer project of personally and professionally fulfilling activities.

All three Greencastle teachers plan to spend their summer on the road as they learn new ways to enrich the education they offer their students.

Johnson, who was previously a 1998 recipient of a Teacher Creativity Fellowship from Lilly, plans to explore U.S. Highway 40 (The National Road) to document the changing face of Americana through photojournalism in a project she titled "Photojournalism and the Road Less Traveled."

Meanwhile, GHS Spanish teacher Wade plans to visit Barcelona, where she will live with a host family while learning to cook, dance the flamenco and take art classes in an undertaking she calls "From Gringa to Dama -- My Transformation in Spain."

Stoffregen, a prior Lilly Teacher Creativity Fellowship recipient in 2002, plans a summer project she calls the "Winds of Change."

The Greencastle Middle School science teacher seeks to enhance her knowledge of renewable energy, wind energy and wind farms by comparing Midwestern winds and oceanic winds in Puerto Rico. Stoffregen also plans to create WOW (Wonders of the Week), an online site including videos and narratives on scientific topics.

Now in its 28th year, the Endowment's Teacher Creativity Fellowship Program provides Indiana teachers, principals, guidance counselors and school media specialists financial support and encouragement to nurture their commitment to education.

In doing so, the program seeks to strengthen Hoosier schools as educators tend to their own intellectual, emotional and physical wellbeing with a goal of being better able to engage and challenge students.

Many of the educators will travel internationally to explore the homelands of their increasingly diverse student bodies. Others will experience language immersion, and some will trace their own ethnic heritage and family histories.

Among the 100 are teachers who will use the renewal time to create: A screenplay, a young adult novel, a photographic essay. Others will explore the natural world -- the Galapagos Islands, wild horse colonies in South Dakota, elephant habitats in Kenya.

Several educators plan to return to their schools to start new projects. One teacher will investigate schoolyard gardening programs in California so that she can bring gardening into the life of her school. Another teacher will hone skills in equine therapy so that she can better work with students experiencing anxiety, trauma and eating disorders. Another educator will learn fly fishing in Vermont, investigate waterways in Arizona and then create science projects for his students focused on water quality and fish habitats in the White River.

"This year's Teacher Creativity Fellows have outlined renewal experiences that will truly integrate personal and professional renewal," said Sara B. Cobb, vice president of education for Lilly Endowment. "As they engage new ideas and follow their own curiosities they will renew their enthusiasm for teaching."

"These teachers, counselors, principals and librarians will go out into the world and reconnect with their calling as educators. They will come home refreshed," Cobb said. "We regularly hear that these experiences help Indiana educators renew their commitment to their profession. As a result, their students benefit."

Including the 2015 class, more than 2,700 Indiana educators have received grants since the Teacher Creativity Fellowship Program began in 1987. The recipients of these fellowships are selected from a competitive pool of applicants. About 500 educators applied for this round of $10,000 awards.

Lilly Endowment Inc. is an Indianapolis-based private foundation that supports the causes of community development, education and religion. In keeping with the founders' wishes, the endowment maintains a special commitment to its hometown, Indianapolis, and home state, Indiana.

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